The following article concerning Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch (SOVSR) was written by Daniel Pritchett, Vice President of the Owens Valley Committee.  You can follow the Owens Valley Committee on Facebook, and learn more on their website,


Preserving Owens Valley’s open space and spectacular viewshed has long been Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s most effective rationalization for the injustice of the valley’s acquisition. Gene Coufal—former LADWP Aqueduct Manager—bragged in 2005, “The Owens Valley remains one of the last areas in California that is virtually untouched by pollution and development precisely because of LADWP’s excellent land stewardship.”

DWP has had much success promulgating this rationalization. In 1976 a Sierra Club spokesman stated, “We recognize Los Angeles is probably the savior of the valley.” In 2007 prominent Los Angeles environmentalist Dorothy Greene wrote, “Most [Owens Valley] residents…are grateful to the city for purchasing most of the land… There is very little development and no billboards on Highway 395.”

How many times have we heard, “If it weren’t for DWP, Owens Valley would look like _____” [fill in your favorite unpleasant suburban area].

What happens to DWP’s rationalization when the proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch (SOVSR) starts the industrialization of the valley? What good will it do to keep Highway 395 billboard-free when the view is marred by miles of solar facilities?

SOVSR is a threat to Los Angeles as much as it is to Owens Valley. If constructed, SOVSR would destroy the single rationalization for the City’s conquest of Owens Valley. SOVSR represents a demon of temptation luring the City of Angels to once again exploit the valley instead of taking responsibility for meeting emissions reduction goals with its own resources.

However, the demon’s threat is also an opportunity—an opportunity for Los Angeles finally to do the right thing. Mayor Garcetti and Chairman Levine (of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners) could decide it is time for the city to listen to its better angels instead of perpetuating the injustice inflicted by Eaton, Lippincott, and Teddy Roosevelt a century ago.

Canceling the SOVSR is an ideal opportunity for Los Angeles to change course. The project is completely unnecessary. It is a product of DWP’s institutional inertia rather than a positive vision of the future. The Los Angeles Business Council documented that LA has over 5000 MW of potential rooftop solar, and this far exceeds SOVSR’s 200 MW capacity and even DWP’s average load of ~3000 MW. When parking lots are added, the city has potential for ~10,000 MW, which exceeds even DWP’s peak load of ~6500 MW.

When Mayor Garcetti ran for office he advocated an expansion of the urban Los Angeles feed-in tariff solar program from 150 MW to 1,200 MW. If enacted, this would provide far more power than SOVSR and would count toward meeting DWP’s state-mandated emissions reduction goal.

All that is lacking is political will. Now—before the final SOVSR EIR is completed—is the best time to try to generate that political will and help LA overcome its demon of temptation. Please contact Mayor Garcetti and remind him that fulfilling his campaign pledge to expand the feed-in tariff program in LA would eliminate any justification for SOVSR. Please contact Chairman Levine and remind him that this is the best opportunity he will have to change the direction of DWP and bring Los Angeles a step closer to deserving its name, the City of Angels.

One Response

  1. Gordon Matassa

    The two quotes (Coufal and Green) make me sick. Who do they think they are? “Virtually untouched by pollution”? Is Coufal not aware that the dust from Owens Lake is the biggest producer of PM10 in the nation? The residents are “grateful” for having what’s rightfully theirs stolen and then subsequently economically oppressed by Los Angeles?

    I don’t understand this thought process that justifies what LA did 100 years ago and continues to do today.

    Thank you for writing this. I’m a bit late to the discussion here, but what does LA propose doing to mitigate the lake dust that will fall onto their proposed solar field? Panels need to be clean to effeciently work. Are they going to stop suing GBUAPCD and actually clean up their mess in the lake, or just use more stolen water to clean the panels everyday?


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